Have you ever tried renting anything in Douala? Our recent experience trying to get an office space was rather interesting. Douala is the economic capital of Cameroon and as is to be expected, it is the most populous city in the country. The reasons we decided to establish our first hub here were down to strategic considerations such as access to a high number of educated youth (employed, unemployed, and underemployed) in urban Cameroon, access to infrastructure, access to technology and internet, and finally, access to experts.
Understandably, real estate is expensive in Douala and good ones are rather difficult to find. When you eventually find a decent space, it comes at a very premium rate. We eventually found a building and the rent was not cheap at all. For those on a shoestring budget, we can only imagine how limited their options become.
In our search, we realised it was going to be impossible to find an office that had the character which we desired. So, when we came upon a decent building, we decided to refurbish it to desired standards. This has meant a lot of extra costs that were we not lucky to be able to afford, it would have been tough. We had to pave the courtyard of the building, gut the inside of the building and re-enforce the support structure, and dig the gutter in front of the building to avoid susceptibility to flooding which Douala is known for.
This got us thinking about how aspiring professionals can avoid the same hassles and financial overspends when finding office space within budget in Douala, at a decent location with great facilities.
Given that the Boris Bison Youth Empowerment Business Incubator is not only about its business mentorship programme; the space had to be tailored for other uses. One of which is, creating a co-working space to enable those on a shoestring budget to have affordable options at great standards.
In an interview on The Flip podcast, the Queen of African Tech, Cameroonian businesswoman Rebecca Enongchong referred to the many challenges’ businesses face in Cameroon as relates to registering without an office address. She breaks it down clearly like this:
To get a business licence in Cameroon from the tax office, which is free for the first 3 years, one needs to get a certificate to show where the office is located. To get this certificate, you must bring a lease. For the lease to be valid, it must be registered.
Co-working spaces present a good option for obtaining these leases at more affordable rates. The practice in Cameroon is that for a co-working space to give you a proper lease according to Ms Enongchong, you pay a tax of 10% of the value of the lease upfront. If it is 5-years you sign a lease for, you will pay 10% of the value of the 5yrs upfront.
Our co-working spaces intend to respond to this need by enabling not just entrepreneurs but professionals who need an office space with access to free internet, to purchase one of our packages which could range from an hourly rate to a weekly access pass and a monthly or yearly permanent office cubicle with priority access to the conference room for presentations with partners depending on your membership.
By Pamela Bongkiyung
Communication & Corporate Strategy